We That Are Left 

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       September 18, 2017


Author  Lisa Bigelow

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760297008
Publisher:         Allen and Unwin
Release Date:   September 2017  

Website:    https://www.allenandunwin.com 

In this hauntingly beautiful story, Lisa Bigelow has managed to capture the very essence of the many young women who are left to wait, while the men they love and desire are away fighting in a war. Although it is set in Melbourne and rural Victoria during the Second World War the story is as real today, as it almost definitely was, so many years ago.

Mae Parker is totally in love with her husband Harry. They have known each other for a long time, been married for a number of years but sadly, are struggling to start a family. Harry is an artist, musician and a lover of the ocean, a place where he feels alive, while Mae treats it with great respect, preferring to look at it rather than be involved with this daunting body of water.  Harry is in the navy, but fortunately has been mostly involved with shore work while she has been pregnant with their second child.

Harry is transferred to Western Australia but gets seconded to the HMAS Sydney; on his last visit home Mae is still recovering from the traumatic birth of their daughter. They spend a lovely, but fraught time together, parting on less than wonderful terms. When Mae gets news the Sydney has been sunk with the loss of all lives and then later, is told what appears to be news that the ship has been towed to Singapore, hope is rekindled.

Grace Fowler is country girl whose father owns the local paper. She has always wanted to be a reporter but discovers that in the 1940’s the reality is that this is a man’s world and only very, very, few women are event given a chance.

She moves to Melbourne to further her education finding a position as the secretary Sam Barton, Editor of the afternoon daily, The Tribune. She fall for the most charismatic sports report Phil Taylor, whom she continues to admire from afar, until he invites her out after a hectic day at the papers.

 The romance blossoms but Phil, the darling of the social set and talented amateur athlete, gets a transfer to the Singapore office just before the fall of Singapore, leaving Grace alone, once again, having to reassess her life choices and the options at the papers. Phil is captured during the fall of Singapore and interred in Changi with the slim possibility that he may survive under the Japanese occupation forces. On his return to Melbourne he is a bitter and terrifyingly changed man.

Mae’s love for her husband never diminishes, while Grace is left to wonder how her life has become a parody of the life her parents lived, until the sudden death of her father.

Beautifully and carefully written, the lives of these two women, their families and the society they lived in, come alive as they and their families learn to accept and manage the devastation and consequences of War!